UNION is a sector-based training programme for community artists and social activists across the north of England.
For many years our parent company, the community arts company and registered charity Heads Together Productions, has engaged in discussions about training within our own sector. Some of the young people we have worked with on the estates of East Leeds were really interested in doing this kind of work as a career and asked us what was the best route in. It felt ridiculous that we couldn’t really answer. We always imagined that someone else would set up the perfect pathway but it got to the point when we realised that we were pretty well positioned to take it on ourselves, especially as we had such good links in to both the arts and the community development/activism sectors.
We secured some initial funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to pilot the idea and some additional funds from the Arts Council of England. It was time to give it a go.
It began with a year-long pilot programme in 2019 for 20 early-career artists and activists across the north of England
Our own learning
We have learnt so much from developing UNION 19. Some of the core principles that we plan to take into our work are as follows:
- We create learning outside of people’s everyday working lives and provide them with the support they need to make that happen
- Mixing up things creates learning: different places; different training inputs and styles; truly diverse groups
- Co-designing our programmes means that we won’t know what will happen (the syllabus) before the group has formed. And that means true ownership of the programme and the ability to respond to the needs and desires of the group
- We believe in putting individual coaching or one-to-one sessions alongside the group programme because that allows each person to define their own learning journey
In 2021 we are planning to take on another group of participants for the core UNION programme and also develop a city-based programme in partnership with the Donut group of small scale venues all based outside of the city centre of Leeds.